(A.K.A. Just make reasonable goals and reach them!)
This is the time of year when everyone starts off fresh and hopeful and makes a bunch of promises to themselves without first considering whether they really want to keep them or not.
My advice is to take a step back and give this whole resolution thing some careful consideration.
First, try not to get caught up in the whole resolution furor and just make SMART (more on this in a bit) goals that you can actually achieve.
Review these goals periodically and change them if you need to.
That’s what irks me about resolutions. For many, they hold the impression of being set in stone. As human beings, we change, so will our goals. Be flexible and make adjustments where necessary. Shit happens. Put another way, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
If you abandon your expensive gym membership after three months and fail to lose twenty pounds by June, then, like as not, either the goal you set for yourself was unrealistic, or something happened to make the goal unrealistic to pursue in the way you first imagined.
I set goals all the time, sometimes they change and sometimes they don’t work out the way I planned. So I change course, adjust my expectations, and set more goals. Goals are healthy and shouldn’t just be reserved for January 1.
This year, resolve not to resolve 🙂
Step one: think about it
The first step, as always, is to give your goals some consideration. Do you really want to achieve them? Are you setting a goal because of external factors?
Take the “lose twenty pounds by June 1st” goal, something a lot of people list in their resolutions, sometimes every year. Are you truly invested in making this happen? Are you only doing it because your stepsister called you fat at Christmas dinner? Are you happy at what others might consider twenty pounds overweight? Do you feel healthy? Do you otherwise conduct yourself in a healthy manner?
Once you’ve determined whether you really want to do this, think about ways that you might be able to make this happen, and how you can make the goal easier to achieve.
An expensive gym membership may not be the best choice given your circumstances.
It might be better to enlist your friends and family in the project, get a support system gathered around you. Often, when you put your goals “out there” in concrete form, that is, you tell people what you want to do and why, it’s less acceptable to renege on the deal.
In this case, you can tell your family that you want to begin to eat healthier and get their support (yes, Mom, we’ll eat fish three times a week with you and we’ll try soy if we can have a day off on the weekend to indulge our collective red meat/fat/sweet cravings). Tell your friends to help you make wise choices at the restaurant without making you feel bad in the process. Tell your mom that while you think her roast of beef with Yorkshire pudding is drool-worthy, that this year you might want to try some Cornish hens and green veggies for your birthday dinner instead. It’s the little things that add up to goals achieved over time.
Is there something that you can buy that’s not expensive and will still facilitate your achievement of your goal? For example, maybe you know that a full, sweaty workout is not for you, but that you could commit to walking every day. So buy yourself some properly-fitted walking shoes, maybe some clothes that will make walking in inclement weather less unpleasant. Perhaps you could buy yourself a simple journal to diarize your eating habits and emotional responses to food.
Recognize when you start seeing or feeling results and give yourself a reward. Maybe by March, with your reasonable eating and exercise plan, you’ve lost eight to ten pounds. Celebrate by getting some clothes in a smaller size.
Think that you feel pumped enough to up your game? Maybe now’s the time to buy a well-fitted pair of running shoes and see when the members of the local Running Room are starting their next beginners class. Save the marathon for next year. There are always more goals you can set in your future. Leave room for them, work up to them gradually.
Setting and achieving goals is a continual process, not a “Ding! I win!” moment. If you’re not invested in the goal, if the wish to attain it does not come from within, and if you fail to plan for success, then, as the saying goes, you’ve only planned to fail. Then again, planning the hell out of something can be overrated …
Back to that SMART thing
So SMART is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. While the acronym is drawn from project and time management in a business context, it can be applied to personal projects as well.
I’ll let you explore making SMART goals on your own, if you’re so inclined. Just Google it, and you’ll see how much is out there.
Some people benefit from a well-structured approach. Some people don’t. This is why the thinking part comes first. You have to know yourself well enough to know what approach you’ll respond best to.
Advice from better minds than mine
Dean Wesley Smith wrote an excellent series on goal-setting in writing over November and December:
- The New World of Publishing: Some perspective on 2012
- The New World of Publishing: How to get started selling fiction in 2013
- The New World of Publishing: Goals and Dreams
- The New World of Publishing: How to keep production going all year
Here’s the ever-amusing but always on-target, Chuck Wendig’s ruminations on the topic:
- 25 Writer Resolutions for 2013 (and beyond)
- On The Subject Of Time And Self And Cynicism: Or, How I View Resolutions
Writer’s Digest has a few thoughts on the topic as well.
Finally, for those whose 2013 includes a new novel:
If you follow any blogs whatsoever, you will find lots of advice on goal-setting. Research is a good idea, but always, think about it for a bit. You don’t want to adopt someone else’s methods or techniques blindly. That’s one of my biggest takeaways from 2012.
Whether it’s with respect to platform development, writing, blogging, weight loss, or any other aspect of your life, to thine own self be true.
Now … what you’ve all been waiting for … drum roll please …
Mel’s resolutions reasonable and malleable goals
My goals are largely determined by my life circumstances and as my life is quite chaotic right now, my goals need to be adjusted periodically because … well, shit happens.
First, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do 🙂
Though it would be nice to lose some weight, I feel pretty good and I am happy with my overall health, so, though it may be a disappointment to some, I will not be quitting smoking, becoming a workout maniac, or going on some fad diet that will only make me miserable.
What I will do:
- Walk more (not specific or measurable because any gain in this area will satisfy me). I used to walk a lot, like 60-75 km per week. I’d walk Nuala in the morning, walk home from work in the evening, go for longer walks on Saturdays, and hikes in the bush on Sundays. I even jogged for a few years. When my dad went in the hospital in 2010, I stopped walking home and started walking to the hospital to visit him after work in stead. When he was admitted to the Nursing home, I stopped walking so that I could get home and drive out to visit him with my mom. When he passed away, I really didn’t feel much like walking at all. Last year, Nuala developed arthritis and now she has an ACL injury and that’s curtailed some of the morning walks. I do want to start walking more though, and I have purchased a new set of waterproof boots to make the decision to walk home after work in the winter easier, but I’ve found, since I’ve hit 40, that my tolerance for inclement weather has definitely decreased. I’ve also got a referral from my doctor to get my orthotics updated, so that will also help.
- Continue to eat sensibly.
- Start massage therapy. My colleagues at work rave about this, and I can only hope that it will help me as well.
- Continue to accept and love myself as I am.
- Take care of myself, my husband, my mom, and my dog.
- Be the best friend I can be.
I’ve recently been advised that my acting assignment will be extended to June, with a further potential extension to September. So, given that … I aim to:
- Continue to learn and master the duties of my position.
- Achieve my training certification.
- Learn to become as a leaf in the wind. This is important. With all the change occurring at work these days, I never know what’s going on and half the time, events are not stable until after they’re already in motion. Even then, cancellations are possible. I fully understand my limitations and commit to do the best I can within those restrictions. That’s all I can promise and I’m good with that. We’ll see if my manager is good with that too 🙂
Professionally (writing life):
- Finish my current edit of Initiate of Stone (I’m nearly there, at long last).
- Send my MS for a professional content edit.
- Start on a new novel (haven’t decided yet which one).
- Submit to anthologies and calls for submissions of interest to me throughout the year.
- Revise IoS given the content edit.
- Share out to select beta-readers.
- Submit first three chapters to the agent who indicated her interest at the pitch conference I attended.
- Submit the entire revised MS to the editor who indicated his interest.
- Revise based on beta-reader response.
- Recommit to my online critique group.
- Continue to read widely on a variety of subjects and across genres.
- Participate in Khara House’s I ❤ my blog challenge. I’ve struggled in recent months with consistency on my blog and I think this is just what I need to get me back up and running.
- Set up a newsletter via mailchimp when my followers reach 100 (I’m at 85 right now). This will be quarterly to begin with.
- Consider a redesign of the blog and (gasp) a hosting service. Yup. Thinking about it. Bears more thought however. Still shy after last February’s hacking bite.
- Go on a few writing dates. Trying to negotiate this with a writing friend, but already have the first “big” one set: Susan McMaster poetry workshop in February. Yay!
And I think that about covers it. Notice that I don’t have time frames on any of these goals. Life/chaos/shit happens, remember? This is a trick I learned from participant-centered training. An agenda that does not have time limitations allows for flexibility and adjustment on the fly.
A lot of this will be blogged in coming months, so I’ll keep you up to date on my progress.
What goals have you set for the coming year? If you call them resolutions, I won’t mind, but please, do share!